A Cautious Man
June 14, 2004
Don't Get Caught on the Wrong Side of That Line
As reported this week by the Rome correspondent John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter:
A Vatican official told NCR June 9 that in his meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano and other Vatican officials, Bush said, “Not all the American bishops are with me” on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism."Not all the American bishops are with me", says the President. What would give him that idea?
Other sources in the meeting said that while they could not recall the president’s exact words, he did pledge aggressive efforts on the cultural front, especially the battle against gay marriage, and asked for the Vatican’s help in encouraging the U.S. bishops to be more outspoken.
According to sources, Sodano did not respond to the request.
We join with Pope John Paul in the conviction that war is not "inevitable" and that "war is always a defeat for humanity." This is not a matter of ends, but means. Our bishops' conference continues to question the moral legitimacy of any preemptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq. To permit preemptive or preventive uses of military force to overthrow threatening or hostile regimes would create deeply troubling moral and legal precedents. Based on the facts that are known, it is difficult to justify resort to war against Iraq, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature or Iraq's involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11. With the Holy See and many religious leaders throughout the world, we believe that resort to war would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for the use of military force.That was a statement from America's Catholic bishops on the eve of war last year. More recently, they've commented on the "Torture, what torture?" situation.
The gravity of the threats we face tempts us to tolerate an ends-justify-the-means morality. The inherent justice of our cause and the perceived necessities involved in stopping terrorism can lead to a minimalist morality that accepts a "permissive" interpretation of international law, the "inevitability" of mounting civilian casualties in Iraq, and the "realism" of an over-reliance on military responses to the problem of global terrorism.Now, I know that the President was talking about other issues, such as same-sex marriage, when he seemed to ask that the American bishops get more "with" him. On balance, given the Catholic view on issues of war and peace, help for the poor, worker rights and the environment (to name a few), Bush may prefer for the bishops to keep quiet. Basically, the President seems to be all for having religious support to tell other people what to do, but can't be bothered with advice about how he should act. That just makes it more outrageous for him to be trying to claim that the "religious" vote should belong to him.
The moral challenge at this moment is to address the horrendous cases of abuse in a way that proves to the world – and, most importantly, to ourselves – that our nation has not succumbed to these risks. The universal condemnation of what has taken place at Abu Ghraib is a hopeful sign that, despite the unspeakable evils done to us and the terrible threats we face, our nation is committed to acting in full accord with fundamental moral norms and America's cherished ideals of liberty and justice for all. In doing so, we will uphold international law, strengthen the moral fiber of our nation, and best honor the memory of the victims of September 11th and the soldiers and civilians who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Or, as the good folks at Get Your War On have put it,
Remember when a reporter asked George W. Bush who his favorite political philosopher was, and he answered "Jesus Christ"? Do you think Jesus would have rolled over in his grave, if he hadn't risen from it?